In the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-39, Jesus teaches about what have become known as the seven Corporal Works of Mercy, one of which is to visit the imprisoned.

For many years the Diocese of Burlington has been committed to serving the incarcerated in Vermont’s six prison facilities using volunteer teams of laity, deacons and priests who visited regularly, offering various liturgical services and being present to Vermont’s imprisoned.

These volunteers brought the presence of Jesus into places where God’s love might not be easily recognized and helped prisoners come to realize that no amount of razor wire or cement walls can keep Jesus from being there for them with His unconditional love, mercy and healing.

However, the current pandemic has created significant challenges in meeting that goal.  All volunteer programs had to be suspended to protect prisoners and staff from Covid-19 infection. Despite this, Vermont Catholic Charities Inc. has been trying to make sure the incarcerated know that they are not forgotten.

Every week DVDs are produced and sent to the facilities with the capability to show them. These DVDs typically include the weekly Sunday Mass, Christian witness talks from those who have come to a deeper relationship with Jesus while incarcerated, faith-based music as well as teachings from well know speakers such as Bishop Robert Barron.

In addition, Bibles, rosaries and other devotional materials as well as hygiene items are sent to the facilities when requested. For those who have been released and are working on re-establishing themselves in the community, some financial aid is provided in the form of assistance with rent, clothing, food and hygiene products.

—Originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.